Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Teachers' Domain: Life Online

Teachers' Domain: Life Online

Spring 2009 Website
Could Teacher's Domain sound more like it's for teachers only? This online library of free digital-media resources is, in fact, designed as a classroom tool, but it's also a fantastic at-home resource for middle- and high-school students and parents. And, unlike the Teachers' Lounge at school, students not only are allowed inside, they're encouraged to visit often and become registered, full-access users.

Most of the material and lessons at Teacher's Domain consists of more than 1,000 easy-to-use educational video and audio programs from high-quality public TV broadcasts such as NOVA, FrontLine, and American Experience. Many of the lessons, such as "Life Online," are intelligent, easily-digestible programs repackaged into a series of video segments and enhanced with textual narrative, background essays, Flash Interactive brainstorming opportunities, and thought-provoking discussion questions that students can respond to in writing.

The "Life Online" program is especially poignant, timely, informative and totally worthwhile for today's students whose lives are so centered around technological connections via online social networking and cell phones. The first video "lesson" focuses on 17-year-old Greg, who stays connected to his friends online and on cell phone 24/7-someone to whom most kids viewing the program would relate. The second video clip and lesson is about social networking-the upsides and down-reviewing a 2006 incident that started with high school girls trading insults on MySpace that escalated into a violent physical classroom fight (the fight, of course, was videotaped by students on their cell phones and posted on YouTube).

Other lessons in the "Life Online" program examine online identity and how it may differ from one's real identity, what's over-the-line behavior online (including an interactive "Where I Draw The Line" chart), and social networking that evolves into distant friendships. One disturbing video segment every student and parent should watch covered the story of Ryan Halligan, a middle-school kid who was tormented by cyberbullies at school and online and took his own life.

Beyond the "Life Online" program, if you click on "Home" a fascinating menu of other programs are available, categorized by subject. Under "Arts", for instance, student can find 27 lessons on Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night." There are also loads of lessons under Science and Mathematics. More remarkable resources appear in a drop-down menu under Special Collections-from 10 videos about the nation's top young musicians at Carnegie Hall to six video lessons from the award-winning PBS series "The Supreme Court" that chart the Court's evolution over two centuries.

So much for free? True. Teachers' Domain is a project of the National Science Digital Library and funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, NEA, Adobe Foundation, Open Society Institute, among four dozen funding organizations that believe in OER-a worldwide learning network of shared teaching and learning materials that are freely available to anyone online.

Make sure to register at Teacher's Domain

. This allows students to personalize their sites, gain full access to all of the interactive elements, save favorite programs, even print out their notes from lessons to review personally or use in school. Like they say, sort of, "the best things in life online are free."

Don Oldenburg   ©2009 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

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